NYPD to issue summonses for most public marijuana offenses starting Saturday

NEW YORK (WABC) -- Beginning this weekend, the NYPD will be issuing summonses to most public marijuana smokers in a policy shift that is expected to cut arrests in New York City by about 10,000.

Police Commissioner James O'Neill wrote an op-ed in the New York Daily News explaining the policy.

"The NYPD sees zero value in arresting people for marijuana offenses when those arrests have no direct impact on public safety," he wrote. "And we know that making criminals out of those with no prior arrest history severely hampers our efforts to build trust and strengthen relationships with the people we serve."

O'Neill stressed that marijuana remains illegal, and even if that were to change, it would still be a crime to smoke it in public.

Earlier this month, the Manhattan District Attorney's Office enacted a policy of not prosecuting most marijuana possession and smoking cases.
"Our research has found virtually no public safety rationale for the ongoing arrest and prosecution of marijuana smoking, and no moral justification for the intolerable racial disparities that underlie enforcement," Manhattan District Attorney Cyrus Vance said in a statement.

The NYPD policy shift comes after critics accused the prior policy of targeting minorities and for being too harsh.

Officers will still arrest people with prior arrests for violent crimes, parolees, drivers and some others. People with summonses will have to go to court and pay a $100 fine.

"If you have no ID or refuse to produce ID, you are subject to arrest," NYPD Chief of Patrol Rodney Harrison said. "Parole, probation, existing warrants, past violent crimes, you are subject to arrest."

Mayor Bill de Blasio believes these changes will drastically reduce arrests.
"New Yorkers with no prior record will receive a summons instead of an arrest for smoking marijuana publicly," de Blasio said. "That's 10,000 lives that will be affected."

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